The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

January/February 2003

Too Much Bioterror?


Responding to campaign questions on federal health policies in the September 2000 issue of U.S. Medicine, compassionate conservative George W. Bush wrote: "The Defense Department's Anthrax Immunization Program has raised numerous health concerns and caused fear among . . . our military and their families. Under my administration, soldiers and their families will be taken into consideration."

Really? How many military families did the commander-in-chief consult before renewing anthrax shots? Many of the anthrax shots are now being administered overseas away from easy public scrutiny. But more than a decade of intolerable adverse reaction data and highly negative congressional and media reports are still available. Inevitably, service members are again objecting to unresolved safety, efficacy, legality, necessity, and program corruption issues. Gulf War groups
and vaccine opponents report increasing calls for help.

The cries of outrage, however, are not being heard. With another mandatory bioterror vaccine for smallpox announced last month, military families are probably wondering just what is meant by "consideration".

The administration's smallpox vaccine policy has already created a pandemic of problems. If Iraq has Russia's genetically altered strain, the U. S. vaccine is useless. Historically, other strains or the vaccine itself were responsible for catastrophic shot campaigns. After 35 years of compulsory and multiple smallpox vaccinations in mid-1800s Prussia, a smallpox outbreak there killed 125,000. During the early 1900s, the U. S. Army's mandatory smallpox vaccine campaign in the Philippines (25 million injections in 10 million Filipinos) failed to prevent 163,000 infections and 75,000 deaths. 

Official estimates project the smallpox vaccine will kill three (or many more) people per million recipients.President Ford stopped the swine flu vaccine in 1976 after only three deaths in 46 million shot recipients. Apparently, the Bush administration won't blink if 46 million smallpox vaccinations cause more than 138 deaths.

Two major health workers unions and 80 hospitals have pledged not to give or take the vaccine without an actual smallpox case. The health workers' pledge
( says the military shots should be stopped.

Respected medical journals, such as the January 2003 Journal of the American Medical Association, are addressing the administration's poor risk/benefit analysis. One author personally observed the dynamics of smallpox transmission in crowded Pakistan. He noted that infectious smallpox victims are too sick to be in public. Their symptoms are sufficiently visible to enact effective containment measures, as was done with a German smallpox outbreak in the
late 1980s. Another JAMA article pointed out the high risk of inducing a self-inflicted epidemic. In the December 2002 American Medical News, Dr. Jeffrey Sartin characterized smallpox vaccinations given prior to the outbreak of smallpox cases as tantamount to "giving dangerous chemotherapy before cancer has been diagnosed." Also, the Institute of Medicine has concluded the administration's policy is too rushed and lacks adequate safeguards (New York Times, 1/15/03).

The administration's biowarfare vaccine policies fail to be compassionate, conservative, or considerate of military family concerns. Everyone should become thoroughly knowledgeable about the dangers of smallpox and anthrax vaccinations that are premature, forced, used improperly, or outright illegal. Homeland Security Bill provisions allow Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to declare even a potential bioterror "emergency" and call for nationwide, pre-emptive injections for all citizens.

As for now, the administration's bioterror vaccine policy itself is already too much bioterror.

After meeting vaccine victims and conducting extensive research, Redmond Handy retired in protest of the anthrax shot policy from his Pentagon position as a colonel in the Air Force Reserve. He testified twice before Congress and is a consultant with the National Gulf War Resource Center. Handy can be reached at


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